MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – After coming under public scrutiny for an alleged asbestos problem at the Cecil H. Parker Elementary School, Mount Vernon school and city officials are firing back after various samples came back negative for the poison.
Concerns were raised last week by outspoken city activist Samuel Rivers, who said that at least half of the building should be closed due to possible asbestos being unearthed during an ongoing construction project in an upstairs classroom.
In response to the accusations, the state Department of Labor conducted an inspection, and the district commissioned an independent assessment from White Plains-based Niche Analysis. The district has released the results of these inspections, which show that the elementary school was safe for students and staff.
Interim Schools Superintendent Judith Johnson said that she had already inquired about any safety issues and was assured that the building is safe, adding that construction “is not affecting the lives of our students.” Construction will continue in the classroom, which hasn’t been used this year.
In response to the negative press surrounding the schools, and specifically Johnson, Mayor Ernest Davis defended the district, which has been the source of much derision within the community.
“Judith Johnson’s influence is felt throughout the district and the state. She is working with city government, understanding that we must work together for the sake of our children,” he said. “To have [her] efforts diminished by those who offer little cannot be tolerated.”
While the performance of Mount Vernon students are among the worst in the state, parents were eager to defend Johnson, who was hired on a one-year contract in June 2012 to replace former interim Superintendent Waveline Bennett-Conroy, who was serving in place of suspended Superintendent Walton Sawyer.
“She has been an incredible influence on our students after stepping into a terrible situation,” Louis Shea, 34, who has two children in the district, said. “[Sawyer] was a failure and a criminal who set us back years. Ms. Johnson has done a great job with very limited resources.”
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